NEW YORK – Two decades ago, the nation was rocked by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York City, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C. The sorrow and tragedy of these events hit home for Holy Name Province when on that seemingly beautiful late summer day in 2001, the community was shocked by the death of one of its own – Mychal Judge, OFM, the FDNY chaplain who rushed to the World Trade Center after hearing that two jumbo jets had struck the twin towers. Mychal became known as victim #1, the first official casualty of the nearly 3,000 people who died in New York City in one of the worst attacks on American soil.
Since that day 20 years ago, Mychal’s legacy has been remembered with memorials, events, and stories shared through articles, books, and radio and online interviews. This year, the life and sacrifice of Mychal, who was 68 years old at the time of his death, is being commemorated by a number of planned events.
Annual Walk in New York City
On Sept. 5, the annual Father Mychal Judge Walk of Remembrance is being held in New York City – according to tradition, on the Sunday before Sept. 11. Hundreds of participants are expected to walk the route that Mychal took when he headed to the site of the World Trade Center on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. The event begins at 10 a.m. on West 31st Street, outside the Church of St. Francis of Assisi, where a Mass will be celebrated at 8 a.m. and the rosary will be prayed at 9:30.
The Walk was founded in 2002 by the late Stephen McDonald, a police officer with the NYPD and a friend of Mychal, who wanted to honor the memory of those lost on 9/11 and trace Mychal’s footsteps in the spirit of prayer and remembrance. Since McDonald’s death in 2017, the event has been organized by John Bates, who wrote about his connection to the friar and the McDonald family in an essay published five years ago in HNP Today.
For 19 years, people from around the world – whether affected directly or indirectly by the events of Sept. 11 – have participated in the annual Walk, stopping at firehouses along the route to lower Manhattan. Traditionally, Christopher Keenan, OFM, FDNY chaplain – along with representatives of the Fire Department of New York – read prayers at each stop. The event concludes at St. Peter’s Church on Barclay Street.
Information about the Walk – along with many photos from past walks – can be found on the event’s website. All are welcome to participate in the 19th Walk marking the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
A Musical Tribute
Music and faith will be the focus of another tribute to Mychal’s legacy in a stage presentation created by musicians affiliated with Texas State University who were inspired by his life and ministry. The musical presentation, called “Stations of Mychal” – which will be performed on three days in September in Virginia and New York City – will feature 14 songs that blend popular and classical styles.
Described as a song cycle, the presentation introduces viewers “to a man who, although no stranger to loss, followed a call to help others first,” said Richard Novak, a member of the group of musicians that composed the production. “He gave tirelessly of himself to support the families of injured firefighters and police officers, worked to broker peace in Northern Ireland, and walked in solidarity in both the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and the New York City Pride March.”
Chris noted that in the long tradition of song cycles beginning with Beethoven, “Stations of Mychal” is an original 14-piece composition cycle that unites Mychal’s life to Jesus’14 Stations of the Cross – which he said should be an interesting and emotionally uplifting performance.
Novak, with four other professors and university directors of music departments, was inspired by the witness of Mychal’s life, according to Chris.
“These musicians are very grateful to have been able to gain a deeper understanding of Mychal’s life and mission by consulting with friars that included Kevin Daly, Michael Duffy, Hugh Hines, Ron Pecci, and the late Benedict Taylor, as well as with others who knew Mychal, such as writer Michael Daly, PattiAnne McDonald, Tara Stackpole, and representatives of Mychal’s Message,” said Chris, who considered Mychal a mentor.
“These five professors, along with seven other musicians, have all donated their time and are assuming personal expenses to come to New York City and Virginia for the performances,” he added.
The premier performances are scheduled for Sept. 7 at George Mason University in Manassas, Virginia, and Sept. 10 at 7 p.m. and Sept. 11 at 1:30 p.m. at the Church of St. Francis of Assisi in New York, adjacent to the friary where Mychal lived. The performances at St. Francis are called “Stations of Mychal – 9/11 Tribute.” All are free and open to the public.
Donations will be collected for Mychal Judge Charities. Information is available on the Stations of Mychal website, where those planning to attend are asked to register.
The song cycle presentation, which was recently described in an article in Hill Country Catholic magazine, begins and ends with Mychal’s Prayer:
“Lord, take me where you want me to go,
Let me meet who you want me to meet,
Tell me what you want me to say,
And keep me out of your way.”
The organizers plan to bring the 90-minute “Stations of Mychal” to venues throughout the country over the next 10 years, with this year’s September performances followed by scheduled presentations this fall in Toronto and Atlanta, according to Chris, who has been working with the director of the New York Fire Department Museum and a student at the College of Mount St. Vincent to create a 700+ piece archive of information about Mychal. The documents of the Mychal Judge Archives will be made available online.
— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.
- “Chelsea’s Fallen Among Those Honored by Annual Walk of Remembrance” – Sept. 13, 2020, Chelsea Community News
- “The Message of Mychal Judge’s Last Homily” by Kevin Mullen – Sept. 11, 2020, HNP Today
- “Reflection: The Impact of Mychal Judge” by Salvatore Cassano and Michael Daly – Sept. 2, 2015, HNP Today
- “Memories of Sept. 11’s First Recorded Casualty Endures” – Sept. 5, 2011, NPR
- “Mychal Judge Honored with Book, Events” – Sept. 12, 2007, HNP Today